How to draw the line? Not an academic inquiry. Far less if you believe that. Life today, from the mouth if not the mind or heart of a national politician has to do with the personal relationship with the truth.
Yes, make a distinction between the objective and the subjective. Yes, make a distinction between what you know and what you believe.
And yes. Make a distinction with your understanding of the need…or lack thereof…of having two national political parties…who find engagement in the truth more important than re-electability.
To that end, my own personal note. I find this interview with Jake Tapper to have integrity and value [two different considerations].
The option to disagree is relevant to the value of being in democracy. That’s democracy, not meritocracy or re-electability.
I share…and ask…for you to think deeply…of how the facts and fiction can be distant. More. How you value facts more than opinion.
I’ve been here…maybe you have, too. More than a rock. Called Haystack Rock. Best times and worst times. No matter what splatters my human landscape, all I need to do…is nothing.
Just sit. Be focused. Hear the lapping surf, note whether the tide is in or headed out. Note the seagulls that may not have a pattern; nonetheless they have a place.
And I get rhapsodic. And wish. For the sanguine, peaceful, getting more together endure. It doesn’t. The moment is realized with a YES, yet life calls for more steps.
And I know. In this very moment of writing…that Haystack Rock is more stable than life itself.
The trigger point came in this moment having finished my Yale Alumni Magazine. Normally chaptered and featured were success stories. Not today.
Won’t name the names…but in three instances, the rock of self crumbled. One to suicide. One to an unknown cause. One by murder.
The promise of each, clear in the affirming in each vigil, was “for sure.” But, the reality harpooned me.
My first reaction: DAMN!
Yep, not for scholars or gutters. But, such waste of life comes and those lives go…with memory the only retention.
Of one: she would help the room come alive and take none of the oxygen.
Of another: he could find patterns in the dirt and promise in the leaves.
And a third: he never went fishing without taking someone with him.
It struck me this afternoon, not May Day but its two day later echo in what I read, that life should never be taken for granted. And. Although Haystack Rock is not life. It is a rock of dependability…and each day it is there.
Ah. If only the same could be said about us…the dependability part…the caring part…the kick-butt and take names part…the breathing and loving part…the trusting part.
…without taking the oxygen from anyone else.
You who read this. You are alive to read this. I invite you to take your life seriously, but never omit the humor or gratitude or joy or goodness in realities that come your way.
Friendships are blessings. I asked a friend recently why…”do you care so much for so many; think your middle names are gentleness and caring…”?
The friend responded, “JUST BECAUSE.”
For a very good reason, that arrived in my heart. Because my friend, although not always vacating the inquiry of WHY, is not bound to have a reason for everything. This friend finds, even in the somewhat routine of each day…purpose. The friend never succumbs to boredom.
The just because brought to me a one-liner from Bill Coffin [He’s the best one-liner in my life’s journey.] who offered this, my paraphrase in memory, Much of life is redeeming the routine.
Ah, just because and redemption of routine.
Not bad on a Sunday morning. Not bad at all.
Sure. We could rattle off [not unlike the blasting of an assault rifle] the latest mass killings…or how many believe not wearing masks is for each of us, or those who find getting COVID vaccines useless…even more…pointless.
But. Such a huge BUT. Most of life is routine…so very routine.
My hope is for each of us…you and I for sure…we don’t find the routine boring. Rather, find in each day the gift the new day is…and even if it’s been months since we’ve varied our schedule…not fall asleep, not find the day without purpose.
Truth…not once when I fished with Don Keller did I not put fish in the net.
Started more than 45 years ago. Memories that neither fade nor get lost.
The picture themes being with Keller. He cared about my family and invited me and my father and Matthew and Andrew to fish on Keller’s favorite river, the Clackamas.
You can see we are not in shirt-sleeves! But, to have the 4 of us with Keller on the Clackamas…ah, sweet!
Remember three times with Keller [well, two with Keller and one without!], that made it clear…he was a great guide…and valued friend.
The first time was when I had Andrew join me…it was February…we were casting for winter steelhead. BAM. Andrew at first thought he was snagged, as did I. Keller knew otherwise, “Andrew, you’ve got a fish on.”
Andrew knew the drill of bringing in a fish, lift up and reel down.
This fish, though, was uncooperative.
Finally, I asked Keller to help out. Truth was I was afraid if I took Andrew’s fishing pole, I might not do it well and the fish would be long gone. Keller knew what to do. And. Surprise beyond definition: It wasn’t a winter steelhead. Nope. It was a 24-pound Spring Chinook [normally caught in April.] Wow. Got some pictures…made Andrew a fishing hero with his school.
Then. Remember it was May of 1981, the year after St. Helens erupted. I had bragged about great salmon fishing with Keller…to my church members at Broadmoor Church in Colorado Springs. Three of them took me up on it…do you speak the truth…was the prompter.
So. Flying in Dick Hanes’ airplane we got to Portland. Our first trip with Keller was the next afternoon. Not the morning because he had half-day clients. Remember we were early—which was my pattern. No complaints. Hanes asked for a beer…was 11 a.m. Perhaps the first time I heard, as he raised his bottle in tribute, “Must be 5 p.m. somewhere.”
Keller came to the boat launch bank just above the Carver Bridge. Had two clients. Keller lifted two 20-pound Spring Chinook out of the boat. My three buddies couldn’t believe it.
We put in the Clackamas, back-trolling plugs. Now. I didn’t time it, but no more than 5 minutes below the Carver Bridge Victor Boog’s fishing rod was almost pulled from the boat. FISH ON!
What an adventure those two days. With the added treat that Dick took me, my mother and father on a plane ride…up and over St. Helens, down the Columbia, down to Nehalem Bay and back to Portland.
The third time with Keller [cannot even count how many times I fished with him over a 20-year span.] I’ve written about before.
Was in October of 1985. I thought, not passively, of perhaps becoming a fishing guide. Since fishing was my self-designated middle-name, why not?
So I fished 5 straight days on Tillamook Bay, October 7-11. Zilch. Fished in my father-in-law’s boat, actually barge-like, almost as wide as it was long.
But, not catching fish didn’t zap my fishing hopes. Simply made it clear…leave guiding to others.
Plus. A HUGE PLUS. I knew I wouldn’t return home to Colorado Springs without a Fall Chinook out of Tillamook Bay…because, Saturday was my scheduled day with Keller..
I showed up where he docked his boat…at the Oyster House, south-end of Tillamook Bay. He looked at me, “Mark, what are you doing here…I’ve got you down for next Saturday.”
Short-hand I was out because he said he had 4 clients due any minute from Portland. He did offer a caveat, “Well, they don’t all show up, because this is Saturday. Sometimes one of them drinks too much Friday night.”
Okay. Confession…I breathed a pray for someone being drunk.
The prayer was invalidated when the 4th showed up.
Went back to my Tilla-Bay Motel Room, sent along with Keller’s apology.
Then realized no one has ever caught a Fall Chinook out of a motel room.
Decided to go back out in the barge, which I renamed African Queen Two.
Listened to my theme then, Billy Joel singing “You’re only Human,” You’re having a hard time lately and you don’t feel so good; you’re getting a bad reputation in your neighborhood.
A passing boat yelled me from my trance, pointing to my fishing rod. FISH ON!
After a very lengthy battle I, pushing exhaustion, lifted the salmon into the net.
Went immediately to the Garibaldi Marina and weighed the fish. An office guy put a hat on my head, “Garibaldi Bay Marina—50-pound-class.”
I had to do it. Got back into the African Queen Two, tracked Keller down, trolled by him and waved my hat.
He stood. Clapped and said, “See, you ALWAYS have preacher’s luck!”
Ah, Don Keller…so many more times with him.
He was the reel deal [correct spelling on him!]…may he be at peace. And may he know how many of us learned from him…and found him to be special.
A friend gave permission to share this reflection upon personal prayer. It starts with inspiration and brings power to words…very much so:
Sometimes I struggle with choosing my prayer words, but I know that God always knows my prayer heart. Even though it is more than ten years ago, this memory is still fresh for me because I remember being quite torn in how I should pray – some friends of ours (a married couple) were in the process of adopting a baby from a teenage mother, but the process hit a snag when the baby’s biological father sought custody.
Our friends asked us to pray that they get the baby. I knew how badly our friends wanted to be parents and what wonderful parents they would be (and eventually would become), but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was somehow wrong to pray that a father should be torn from his daughter. So, I prayed for the child and that God protect her and place her in a loving home. This was a turning point in my own prayer life because I learned to pray for God to help me have discernment and clarity in my requests, and to also be accepting of God’s will when it didn’t align with my own earthly desires. I think my prayer life is always growing and evolving, which I think is healthy, and sometimes, I can do nothing but offer myself in prayer.
Moments upon moments. Some to cherish. Some to discard. Actually a life-picture…for more than the television screen. Speaking of the mostly forgettable Academy Awards last night. But, I’m not a critic, although I did watch…and in some very special moments…did find the moments more than memorable…actually very followable.
Want to share this…because it made my life, especially when words are swords, more than apt. Brought to me essence…of how we can more than remain or be stuck without pause, in the muck we can identify and at times, painfully so, realize. This speech brought a deeper truth…that many of us might find worthy to put in our heart…and, who knows, maybe more. Put in our deeds, for wordless deeds are less than useless. Want to share…because it brought a deep value, that hopefully, you can support.
Most of the time when asked for prayer, I do my best to be inclusive, connecting the needs of the person. What I try is to invite God to be present…not pushing a particular result.
That comes with, what I’ve stated frequently if not overly so, to pray for effort and not victory, or if for medical needs, that God’s healing presence will not be stranger.
The invitation to prayer came to me this morning when I realized tonight is the Academy Awards.
A memory that has never left.
Was serving a church outside Chicago. A couple in the church, Roger and Barbara Rydstrom, parishioners and super-friends [that combination didn’t happen enough!] invited me to a formal dinner. They hadn’t explained the purpose of the dinner.
I wanted to look formal if not relevant.
When I got there, was still uninformed. Didn’t bother me.
A parishioner clarified with a request, “Dr. Miller, I hope you pray for Gary’s victory tonight!”
I was clueless. First, Who’s Gary? Second, Victory for what?
Went to Barbara and explained the request. She smiled with that combination of apology and explanation, “Oh, my, I bet we didn’t inform you the purpose of tonight.”
I only nodded.
She said, “I’m sure you know tonight is the Academy Awards Banquet. Our son, Gary, is nominated for an Oscar for Music.” [Or maybe it was sound track..I honestly don’t know the specifics, but knew it had something to do with music.]
Ah, I got it. “Pray that Gary is victorious.”
I smiled, “Barbara, what a special night. Is this Gary’s first Oscar nomination?”
She nodded with a beam, I knew the answer.
The clinking of her glass, Roger introduced me, “Our pastor, Dr. Miller, will share the invocation.”
[I was so grateful he didn’t say, the prayer for victory!]
So I prayed…and in the prayer said this, figuring it would be good enough, “Dear God, this is a special night for Roger and Barbara and Gary…and, yes, for each of us. We pray that Gary will do well.”
Hey, was the best I could do.
Now, when Gary was handed the Oscar [his first of many], I didn’t say a word, other than a closely held prayer the evening was celebrative.
Tonight? I don’t know if Gary’s nominated for anything. Know his cinema music gifts have gone to the cinema world of animation.
I smile. Because prayer is important. And cinema is important. But, most important is to know that God is with us, no matter what. That was affirmed this morning, the 4th Sunday of Easter, when Psalm 23 was read. Which always says to me, for the Lord is my shepherd makes clear we are not in charge…but, to live and pray and do our best…ah, good enough. Good enough.
It’s Saturday morning, April 24, 2021. The day scheduled to receive my 2nd Vaccine injection [Moderna].
Cannot say why my most focus is upon an incident…yes, I’ve written it before but today it’s closer than real…that may have been the trigger point. Of course, I don’t know, but it could be. So I share.
It was August, 1958, the summer between high school graduation and first classes in college. I was a national delegate to a Christian Education Conference at Purdue University. The key speaker was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember vividly his two chapel homilies, “Measure of a Man.” Powerful, inspiring, fueling my very early decision to seek ordination.
Then. A surprise. I was asked to represent all the youth at the conference…to be on panel to meet with Dr. King. The panel started at 4:00 p.m.
Wanted to make sure I was “on my game with alertness,” so took a nap. Set my alarm in the dorm room. No roommate. Didn’t hear the alarm. Woke up. It was 4:20 p.m.
No way. No way no matter how much wordsmithing I can offer, I can describe the emptiness in my stomach. Horrific.
I got up, snuck, literally, into the empty balcony and looked upon the stage…Dr. King sitting at the head of the table, the other panel members in discussion with him. What I noticed more than that…so much more…was the empty chair. MY SEAT.
Don’t remember when the numbness of failure struck. But, it wasn’t soft.
Why all this?
Because it is the most vivid initiating factor…maybe how failure led to a life of “make-up” calls to caring about any moment when a witness to cut racism out of an event could happen.
Not to narrate any more…other than it ended up being a blessing that I failed. Because that was a life-time prompter.
I do believe my concern about the need to counter racism would have happened aside from that empty chair. But, at least metaphorically when I speak or act or do whatever I can, I end up sitting in that chair.
Okay. Saturday, April 24, 2021…Vaccine on tap. But, more. Hopefully I won’t oversleep when it’s necessary to say or do something that challenges when race is a judgment and not a humanity reality.
May it be. That you, your very self, when you ponder your own journey…maybe you can name a moment when it was more than a moment…it was a factor that guided you with energy and vision to make a difference. Go for it!